Dahi handi age issue: Is Sena going against Bal Thackeray?
While the Shiv Sena has been protesting against the state child rights panel’s decision to restrict kids under 12 years of age from being part of dahi handi pyramids, it has emerged that the party’s late founder and supremo, Bal Thackeray, was against the practice.
Mallakhamb champ Rajmudra Loke with Bal Thackeray in 2006
He had, in fact, shouted at the parents of a 7-year-old girl for endangering her safety by allowing her to be part of one such human pyramid in 2006. This influenced the girl’s life to such an extent that she refused to be part of any dahi handi pyramids after that and went on to become a national rope and pole Mallakhamb champion. Now 15, both Rajmudra Loke and her parents remember their day at Matoshree very clearly.
With her coach Uday Deshpande at Shivaji Park on Tuesday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Rajmudra, who was on the eighth tier of a human pyramid in 2006 and had successfully broken the handi, was invited to Matoshree with her parents. Far from congratulating them, however, Thackeray asked the parents how they could let her take part in such a risky activity. He asked Rajmudra where her interests lay and advised her to take up some recognised sport and continue with her Mallakhamb practice.
Milind Loke, father of Rajmudra, said, “When we met Balasaheb, he asked me what I was so proud of as I had nearly put my girl in danger. He said kids should not be a part of this as there is danger to their lives. After that day, I pushed Rajmudra to take up a sport. That proved to be a good decision. Based on my experience, my advice to parents would be to look out for their children and not endanger their lives by letting them take part in activities like breaking the handi.”
Rajmudra said, “I was very young, about 7 years old, when I met Bal Thackeray to be felicitated for my dahi handi achievement. But what I remember from that meeting was him scolding my parents for allowing me to do this. I stayed away from dahi handi mandals after that and never climbed a human pyramid.
I took his advice of joining a recognised sport and went to Uday sir (her coach Uday Deshpande) and have been with him since then. I am very happy that the sport is recognised and I could achieve something and make a career rather than staying part of dahi handi mandals.”
Deshpande, a Shiv Chhatrapati Award winner who has an institute in Shivaji Park, said, “Rajmudra has always made me proud and I recently took her with me as an assistant coach to Germany for a training programme there. She has won more than 100 awards at the national level. Leaving her dahi handi days behind, she made it big in this sport.
The tradition of breaking dahi handis needs to be there and needs to go on, but participating in recognised sports gives one a career. The two should not be mixed.” Other sportsmen mid-day spoke to agreed with Deshpande and said that dahi handi should remain a tradition and competition should not come in.
Last month, the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) directed the government to ban the participation of children below 12 years of age in the human pyramids as part of dahi handi celebrations. MLA Pratap Sarnaik had protested against the decision in Thane in the fag end of July claiming it was impeding the celebration of the festival. Sena mouthpiece Saamna had covered the protest and endorsed his view.